By Mike Scheck
Special to American Forces Press Service
March 2, 2009 - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is part of a joint, multinational effort to provide solutions for city officials here on what to do with the 900 tons of trash Kirkuk residents generate daily. For years, Kirkuk residents have been dumping their garbage into unregulated areas or merely unloading it in open fields outside the city. This unrestricted dumping has the potential to cause serious health, environmental and public safety concerns, officials said.
To solve the city's garbage problem, coalition forces initiated a sustained solid-waste management program for Kirkuk in 2005. To find an environmentally safe solution to the city's garbage collection and disposal dilemma, the soldiers worked with the city and provincial governments, the provincial reconstruction team, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division.
The central piece is the $8.8 million sanitary landfill project, which meets both the highest U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and European Union Landfill Directive standards. The site represents the first environmentally engineered and constructed landfill in Iraq.
The landfill project, built using Commander's Emergency Response Program funds, was completed by the Irbil-based Zana Group in February 2008. The 48-acre site is 10 miles south of Kirkuk and has an expected lifespan of 10 to 12 years, engineers said.
To increase the capacity of landfill sites and to conform to current EPA standards, solid waste must now be processed through a transfer waste station where garbage is compacted. The Kirkuk landfill soon will have two solid waste transfer stations to provide added capacity and to compact the trash before it's transferred to the landfill. The Gulf Region North district's Kirkuk Area Office is the contract manager for the construction of the solid waste transfer sites. The Dalo Construction Co. of Kirkuk completed the first transfer station, located south of the city, in December 2007. The second solid waste site, located just north of the city, is scheduled for completion in June. Each station has the capacity to handle 300 tons of waste per day. At full capacity, eight tractor trailers transfer the 18 40-ton capacity transfer trailers to the landfill site continuously throughout the day.
"The first waste transfer station is being fully utilized, and the Iraqis are implementing some of their own ideas at the waste transfer station," Army Lt. Col. J.B. Chadwick, officer in charge of the Kirkuk Area Office, said. "For example, they are removing large pieces of metal from the trash for potential recycling. The site of the second waste transfer station was selected due to its proximity to the Kirkuk Ring Road project, which will allow quick and easy access to the site from the city of Kirkuk and from the waste transfer station to the landfill."
The price tag for each solid waste site is $2.5 million, with funding for the projects coming from several agencies, including the United Nations Office of Project Services. The Development Group Iraq Trust Fund is paying for the city's garbage trucks. The South Korean government donated the collection vehicles and loaders used at the sites.
The solid waste sites and landfill will employ more than 700 local workers, adding well-paying jobs and a much-needed boost to the city's local economy.
The major concern by the solid waste project partners was how to sustain such a massive operation after the subject-matter experts leave Iraq. To keep Kirkuk's solid waste plan in place for the long term, the agencies instituted training in all aspects of the operation. U.S. Air Force technicians conduct vehicle and maintenance training with employees, and the Research Triangle Institute International instructs local managers on landfill operations, maintenance and site management training.
(Mike Scheck works in Gulf Region North for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division.)